How Stress Affects Your Sex Hormones
Your boss is breathing down your neck. Your home is a mess. You’ve just got an unexpected bill, and your mother wants to know when you’re going to start having children. When you’re stressed, taking a trip to the bone zone is just about the last thing you’d want—even if sex is a good way to relieve stress.
Stress has a lot of well-documented effects on the mind and body, but killing your libido is one of the most frustrating. Think of the brain as an erogenous zone. You can’t get in the mood if you’re mentally running through your to-do list when you’re supposed to be making out.
If you learn to control your stress for no other reason, do it for your sex life. Here’s how stress affects your sex hormones, and what you can do to resolve the issue.
Sex hormones and stressful situations
Your body is affected by stress in a number of ways. First, whenever you’re going through a tough situation, your body automatically goes into a fight-or-flight response. This triggers cortisol and epinephrine release, which kills your sex life faster than you can say “Put on some Al Green, honey.”
When you’re constantly under stress, your body starts to adapt to the increased cortisol and epinephrine—and not in a good way. Cortisol lowers your libido and reduces your sex hormone production, which can make it nearly impossible to become aroused. Instead of producing sex hormones, your body is busy creating cortisol instead.
In women, it can also throw off the menstrual cycle. Not only are you thinking about looming deadlines and difficult situations, but you’re also exhausted, constantly in fight-or-flight mode and possibly bloated, achy and moody.
For men, stress can create erectile dysfunction. Psychology Today reports that “Whenever a man becomes aroused, nerve impulses cause blood vessels in the penis to dilate, allowing a steady flow of blood into the spongy tissue. At the same time, a circular muscle called a sphincter constricts to prevent blood from flowing back. During stress, blood vessels don’t dilate fully and the sphincter fails to constrict, both contributing to erectile dysfunction.”
On top of that, the hormones that create testosterone and produce sperm for men, and ovulation in women are affected—which is why stress can also contribute to problems conceiving.
What’s worse is that every time you try and fail to have sex while under stress, your brain is making the association between the two. Before long, you may find yourself with subconscious beliefs that you “can’t” successfully have sex. That’s no way to live.
If you’ve been suffering from chronic stress, it’s time to take action…so you can get some action.
Conquer stress to restore your sex life
Want to restore your sex life to your glory days? You’ll need to address the cause of your stress, first. While that’s often easier said than done—especially in the time of COVID-19—your body and brain can’t function properly until you do.
Healthy coping mechanisms are always the best way to address these types of problems. Therapy can help you find ways to address the root causes, like learning to set good work/life boundaries and having uncomfortable conversations with your mother. (“Mom, the more you ask about grandchildren, the less we’re in the mood to create them” may not be ideal Sunday dinner conversation, but if it’s stressing you out, it has to be said.) And of course, you should see your medical doctor to rule out any physical issues, too.
If it’s your partner that’s struggling to get in the mood, see what you can do to lighten their load. There’s a reason the I Love It When You Talk Clean to Me: Porn for Women (completely SFW!) book has amused so many people—there’s something to be said for a partner who equally shares the household chores and child-rearing responsibilities, and prioritizes things you enjoy doing. Obviously, this applies to everyone, not just women. Find something that’s stressing your partner out, then take it off their plate, without expectation of sex. (“I did the dishes! Let’s bang!” is rarely a turn-on for anyone.) Not only will it help them conquer their stress, but it’s a great way to foster emotional intimacy, too.
Ultimately, when you and your partner work together to lessen chronic stress, you’ll end up in a better position to have a lot more fulfilling sex—and yes, we meant it that way.